Canada is a world leader when it comes to education, according to a new study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The report, released Tuesday, says Canada is especially unique because its immigrant students perform well and socio-economic background seems to have little effect on performance.
The study was based on scores from testing in 2009 through the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment.
"Canada stands out not just because of its high overall performance but also because the impact of socio-economic background on educational outcomes is much less pronounced than in most Western nations," said Andreas Schleicher, of the OECD, in a video posted on the organization's website.
"An example is the extraordinary performance of Canada's immigrant children."
When studying Canada's education system and the results from each province, Schleicher said he was struck by the high expectations that immigrant families have for their children "and even more by the fact those expectations are by and large held by educators as well."
On reading, science and mathematics, Canada finished in fifth place behind Shanghai-China, Korea, Finland, Hong Kong-China and Singapore.
Scores in all three categories were well above the OECD average.
The U.S., by contrast, was 17th overall.
When broken down by region, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia tied with four other jurisdictions for second place in reading, following Shanghai-China.
The report said Canada proved to be an exception to at least one rule.
Canada is the only country in the developed world with no federal office or education department, the report states. Instead, education is a provincial and territorial responsibility. But surprisingly, the report said, the system seems to be working just fine.
"Canada demonstrates, rather surprisingly, that success can be achieved without a national strategy," the report states.
"This observation runs counter to the instincts of many of those who sit in policy seats and seek to effect change, but the fact is that Canada has achieved success on PISA across its provinces despite a limited to non-existent federal role."
However, the study also points out that some Canadian leaders, including Liberal MP and former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy, "are now trying to mount a more national strategy, arguing that education is too important to be left entirely to the provinces."
The study is compiled from results of tests administered to 15-year-old students in about 70 countries, every three years in math, science and reading.
About 22,000 Canadian students took the test, and about 470,000 worldwide.